You’ve heard it a million times before: the book is always better than the movie. I wasn’t quite sure if the same held true for a movie novelization book, based on the actual screenplay of the movie. In the case of The Wolfman, novelized by Jonathan Maberry, the old adage still holds true. And to make sure I could actually say that, after I read the book, I watched the movie.
Let me start with the book, and of course the monster, our dear old friend the Wolfman. The idea of the werewolf is one of the instantly-known monsters, right up there with vampires and witches. The story is set in the late 1800s, giving it that distinct Gothic feel that classic monster stories deserve, at least in my opinion. I felt that Maberry really tried to make the story feel older, and give it that decidedly Gothic air. The language he used for the most part felt right for the time period, but still simple enough and not too flowery for modern readers. There was only a phrase here or there that made me stop and think, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like something he would say.”
Lawrence Talbot’s transformation into the monster was painful to read, and rightfully so. When the man’s bones break and reform, his limbs and mouth elongate, I was squirming in my seat trying not to picture it in my head or hear the sounds that must have made. And once the transformation was complete, there really isn’t a shred of human left. He turns into a giant wolfy monster man that is as comfortable on two legs as he is on four, that is made to slash and kill and feed and not give a damn who or what he’s slashing and killing. And I am glad for that. Werewolves should be that way, not just giant versions of what’s in the wild. I don’t always agree when the lycanthrope can still think semi-rationally. They are killing machines, working for a cruel mistress in the moon, and they really shouldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything except blood and food. Now I have to mention the movie here for a minute. I loved how they portrayed Lawrence’s transformations, especially when he’s in the asylum strapped in the chair. You hear those nasty popping sounds, see the stuff crawling under his skin, and the blood that comes out when his jaw reforms and his claws pop out. But once he’s fully transformed…I don’t know, I thought his face would be more terrifying. I guess this is another nod toward the original, but I didn’t think with all our moderness that in the end the Wolfman’s face would still kind of look like a guy in wolf makeup. And I thought Anthony Hopkins’ makeup was better, but maybe it was because he was grey and not black. I don’t know. I will stick with my own imagination on this one, because that is a much scarier version.
In the end, I think the idea is there, and the story really pays homage to the classic, and captures all the scary elements that you think of when you think of werewolves. It’s dark and bleak in that classic Gothic way, and delightfully gory to boot. But don’t bother with the movie. Read the book, and let your own mental images of the Wolfman color your dreams.
P.S. Fun fact for those who have seen the movie: Talbot Hall was filmed at the same location they used for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. Maybe instead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it should have been Pride and Prejudice and Werewolves. Darcy as the Wolfman? Food for thought 🙂